The defendants were key figures in the first impeachment of former President Donald Trump for his role in efforts to pressure Ukrainian officials to open an investigation into Joe Biden.
Mr Parnas became a key figure in former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment after Mr Giuliani accused Ukrainian officials of pressuring Ukraine to launch an investigation into Hunter, Mr Trump’s top Democratic rival, and Mr Biden’s son. aided the efforts. The criminal charges are not related to Mr Parnas’ role in the pressure campaign, but prosecutors have highlighted his access to political figures.
In opening statements, Assistant US Attorney Aline Floder said Mr Parnas and another Florida businessman, Igor Fruman, joined M/s Kukushkin and Muraviev to launch a cannabis venture in the summer of 2018. According to Mr. Kukushkin’s lawyer, Mr. Kukushkin already operated dispensaries in California with Mr. Muraviev.
M/s Parnas and Fruman, who had sparked donations in 2018, reassured M/s Kukushkin and Muraviev that they have influence in political circles, Ms. Floder said. In return, Muraviev sent them a total of $1 million into bank accounts, disguising the source of the funds, she said.
Ms Floder said just over $100,000 had been spent on campaign contributions to US political campaigns. He said the men hoped the money would help garner the support of politicians as they sought licenses to sell cannabis in states where marijuana is legal.
“That’s why the defendants wanted to add to the good qualities of politicians,” Ms Floder said.
Lawyers for M/s Parnas and Kukushkin told jurors on Wednesday that Mr Muraviev’s money was a loan, and none of the money was used for charity.
Mr Kukushkin’s lawyer Gerald Lefcourt said Parnas and Fruman spent $1 million on personal expenses, paid off credit cards and funded an unrelated business venture.
Mr Parnas’ lawyer Joseph Bondi said his client did not knowingly or knowingly violate federal election laws.
Mr Fruman pleaded guilty on 10 September to soliciting political contributions from Mr Muraviev, who has not been charged. Mr Muraviev’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Following his arrest in 2019, Messrs Parnas and Fruman launched a national inquiry into his roles in aiding Mr Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine.
Mr Parnas, a US citizen who was born in Ukraine, later publicly broke up with Trump and expressed his willingness to work with the congressional investigators overseeing Trump’s first impeachment. Mr. Giuliani is not an accused in the case and has denied any wrongdoing with M/s Parnas and Fruman.
After discussing the cannabis venture in the summer of 2018, Mr. Parnas decided that Mr. Kukushkin would not be a good business partner, Mr. Bondi said. Mr Parnas made the decision partly because he was attending political events with Mr Giuliani at the time, according to Mr Bondi.
“He’s not a cannabis man,” Bondi said of the former New York City mayor.
Mr. Parnas is one of only two defendants in a May 2018 lawsuit alleging he concealed the source of a $325,000 donation to pro-Trump super PAC America First Action.
Prosecutors say Mr Parnas made donations in the name of his and Mr Fruman’s company, Global Energy Producers, to give the impression of a successful business, rather than having no real money. In fact, the money came from a private loan that Mr Fruman obtained, according to prosecutors.
Mr Bondi said Global Energy Producers was a legitimate startup that sought to supply US natural gas to countries in Europe. According to Mr Bondi, the contribution was intended to aid the business.
In the spring of 2018, Mr. Parnas pledged to contribute $1 million to America First Action to help the company achieve VIP status at political events, including access to donors involved in the gas and oil industry, Bondi said.